Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have a user who uses both Mac and PC and has a couple USB hard drive formatted in Mac format. Wondering if I can find a free alternative to MacDrive or if we'll need to pay for it.

share|improve this question
up vote 4 down vote accepted

You do not necessarily need to use the FAT filesystem as @mjrider said in his answer. There is a driver that will allow you to use NTFS (Windows primarily uses this filesystem) filesystems on a Mac. Here is the link to the information that I found. Here is a link to the drivers that you can download to get the functionality you need.

If you install that driver and have an external HDD that you have used on a Windows OS, you can turn around and now use it on the Mac now that the driver has been installed and there will be no issue with reading or writing to the hard drive.

share|improve this answer
I've found this solution perfectly working because fat is not good nowadays (huge hard disks size) – Pitto Jun 8 '11 at 16:10
@Pitto, Here is an answer I had where someone was wanting a file system that could support large capacities, but didn't know about the driver for Macs. NTFS can support up to 16TB capacities. Good point to mention on the large capacity. This could be vital knowledge for knowing the capabilities of the filesystem. – David Jun 8 '11 at 16:13
You're absolutely right... If we're talking about a small usb pen then fat is a good solution and work immediately almost on every (common) operating system. When it comes to hard drives and cross platform needs ntfs is definitely the answer (for now) :) – Pitto Jun 8 '11 at 16:18
Also, Mac OS 10.4 and up have the ability to read NTFS systems built-in by default, so you can leave the NTFS-3G installer on your external drive and install it on any new Mac you use that requires read/write ability. – afrazier Jun 8 '11 at 16:30

HFSExplorer is an application that will let you read HFS+ partitions and dmg files

it works really well!

share|improve this answer

I have asked this same question to many different users. and my general response is format your usb drive as either fat or exfat depending on if you need linux support (exfat does not work out of the box on MOST linux version, yet fat does)

share|improve this answer
It's hard to recommend exFAT until Linux support gets out of beta stage, or if you have to deal with Macs running 10.5. – afrazier Jun 8 '11 at 16:36
aggreed...but it is "a" free option... – mjrider Jun 9 '11 at 1:22
As of late I've had zero issues with the xfat beta... And if you are using linux it's quite easy to install the support and forget it.... I understand that's not an option for all... – mjrider Feb 22 '14 at 23:29

It looks like there are readonly HFS+ Windows drivers in Bootcamp. I'm not sure how you'd get them over to a generic (non-Bootcamp) Windows install.

If you absolutely require free, I'd suggest not worrying about mounting and just put the Mac on a network and export the drive(s) as file share(s) (with samba underneath). You also get write access to it. You could also export as WebDav but samba will be easier.

If this is too much of a pain, then you have two choices, pay in money for MacDrive, or pay in time to copy the drive off, reformat as Fat32 or some other file system mountable on both Windows and Mac, and copy back to the drive. You would also lose some metadata (file storage dates, all the other stuff that HFS+ gives you).

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.